This post is Julie Stroder’s reflections on a recent summer mission trip to our partner village, Nakabango,Uganda. In her role as Messiah’s Mission Coordinator, she has led more than 30 mission teams to Uganda.

The women of Nakabango Lutheran Church in Uganda are some of the hardest working women I will ever know. I never stop marveling at what they accomplish in a day and the manner in which they maintain friendships with other women to help each other complete their work.

In Uganda, it truly is all about the relationships.

The women are always a part of a mission team’s arrival in Nakabango. Their singing, dancing, and that unique “shrieking” that signals sheer joy welcomes us to their community. Their message is communicated in an unmistakable manner! As one of their children’s songs says, “they are happy to receive us”!

The women run the household in Uganda. They cook, care for family, haul water, tend gardens, wash clothes— and accomplish it all with a baby strapped to their back!, All the while, they are nurturing relationships with one another.

After they greet us, the women fade into the background and are rarely present when the children and community leaders present their program. They are busy in an outdoor kitchen preparing a mid-afternoon lunch. We can always see them chopping wood for the fire and making matooke, a Ugandan treat made by wrapping plantains in leaves from a banana tree and allowing them to steam for hours. Through the smoke, we see them working in the distance, chatting and smiling as they tease each other. Nearby, toddlers are sleeping on mats in the shade and babies are nursing.

The women watch over each other’s children as if they were their own.

Drawing on their strengths, the entrepreneurial women of Nakabango have started a catering company. They serve their homemade food at school dedications, funerals, and other functions. In the spirit of community, some of the proceeds from their business go to finance small loans for other women to start their own businesses to better provide for their families.

Women helping women.

These ladies are the backbone of their community. They are diligent about working to support their families and (in many instances) extended families. Their weathered skin reveals the long hours they have spent in the hot sun, oftentimes digging in other people’s gardens for small amounts of pay. Their faces light up when the visitors arrive and they take every opportunity to hand out hugs and smiles.

They serve as a wonderful example of the enduring spirit of our friends in Uganda. They work hard but never discount the importance of friendships and family. The grace they demonstrate in working hard while prioritizing friendship and family is a valuable lesson they can teach us!

© 2015 Messiah Lutheran Church